Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus)

Although the ancient murrelet is a marine species, there have been reported sightings as far inland as eastern Ontario and Ohio. These sightings almost always occur after a major storm; how these little birds survive being blown so far off course is a mystery!


This bird's common name comes from the grey on its back and wings, which gives it an aged appearance. It has a black chin, throat, face, crown and nape with white on its underside. Both the male and female are similar in appearance and size, at about 20 cm in length, and have short, yellow bills.


The ancient murrelet is common along the Alaskan and British Columbian coastlines. This is a pelagic bird, living on the open ocean, rather than on coastal or inland bodies of water. However, it does come ashore to breed, chiefly on northern Pacific coasts. In the non-breeding season it occurs throughout British Columbian coastal waters.


This small bird nests in colonies on grassy or wooded slopes of the Pacific coastal islands, coming ashore under the cover of darkness to hide from predators. Two large eggs, bluish-white to cream in colour with brown or grey markings, are laid in a nest of dried grasses in burrows or fallen logs. Egg laying occurs from late April to mid-May and incubation lasts from 33-36 days with both parents taking responsibility. The newly hatched young are precocial; they are able to move about and keep themselves warm, and by the third day, leave the nest at night to join the adults at sea.

While offshore, the ancient murrelet eats small shrimp-like crustaceans, but during the breeding season, it feeds mostly on fish such as sand lances and sea perch.